17 Effective Tips on Speech Writing and Delivery

Speech WritingFor the last 3 weeks, I have focused on little else other than the upcoming speech at Blogworld. It was an honor to be accepted, after submitting this video proposal. As with all things, however, after the excitement calms down and the dust settles, you are left with real work to do and in this case, I was looking at an hour-long speech to write and deliver. Even with the experience of Toastmasters (video proof!) and a few other public speaking events, the idea of writing for and speaking at Blogworld has been pushing me to break new boundaries in speech preparation.

“There are only two types of speakers in the world, the nervous and the liar. ”
– Mark Twain

So there, you have it, there’s no point lying about it: I am nervous. The good news is that my nervousness pales in comparison to my excitement. I am determined to share my message and my stories in the most unforgettable, useful and effective way with my audience on the morning of Thursday, May 26th.  This much I know.

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One day, you will have a chance to speak to a group of people. I urge you not to turn it down even if you are terrified of public speaking. Read what I wrote on the Irrational Fear of Public Speaking last year and think about what an incredible opportunity it would be for exposure and spreading of your message. Say yes to the opportunity!

After countless hours refining the process of speech writing and practicing, I feel compelled to share the highlights with you. Here are my 17 effective tips on speech writing and preparation:

  1. Know Your Main Motive for Speaking: Why are you speaking? There is always one compelling reason above all others. It’s best to know that in advance. Do you want to share a message? Do you want to influence opinion? Do you want to solve a problem? Do you want name and brand recognition? Do you want to practice your public speaking skills? Lock in on your main motive, be honest with yourself and then align the rest of your speech to it.
  2. Understand the Requirements and the Audience: This comes from the venue where you will be speaking. If it is a conference, the organizers will provide this information for you. You need to know who is in your audience, what are their interests and desires, and to what type of messaging they best respond. Also, find out the length of the speech, any information about the audience, the preferred methods of delivery (if any) and make sure that your delivery style and your message will be welcomed and well received.
  3. Decide on Your Overall Message: Your audience will walk away with this. It has to be crystal clear. There should be no doubt at the end of your speech about your overall message and if the audience forgets everything else you said, if they remember this overarching message, you will have done your job well.
  4. Record Your Ideas: Now that you know your core message for the speech, you can start building the speech. The easiest way to start this is to record your flow of ideas, stories, and thoughts into your Smart Phone or a small audio recorder when you are on the go. Start this preparation phase of your speech at least 3-4 weeks prior to your date. Then transcribe your recording on a word document in no particular order. Now you have some content.
  5. Create the Speech Outline: The speech outline is the bare bones of your speech; it is the body without the clothes or was that too naughty? You know what I mean. It is the foundation of your speech, the high-level components of the speech. How is the talk going to go? Go over it in your mind. It could go something like this: You open with a great story, then you could inject some humor, maybe a delayed introduction, then you state the main objective, and next you impart your experience as it relates to the core message for building some credibility with your listeners, and then you move on to cover the main sections that support your overall message, then you finish with a powerful closing. This is just an example and you can vary it up as you please. This would also be a good time to gather some quick feedback. Does the general layout of your outline make sense to a close friend or a peer?
  6. Write the Speech Sections: Now you create the heart of your speech and put the details of each section in your outline above. These are the knowledge, expertise, belief and ideas that compel you to talk on this topic. It does not have to be perfect just yet – it will likely change many times – but you do need to make sure your content in each section is relevant to your core message, that it supports your overall purpose and goal of the speech, and that the order in which you present the ideas is logical and intuitive to your audience. Always, always remember to put yourself in your listener’s shoes. Assume they know little about the topic and consider you the expert who will give them the most in the shortest amount of time.
  7. Use a Visual Map to Create the Speech: You can do the steps 5 and 6 above by using a word document and stop there. However, I highly encourage you to draw it out using a visual map such as Mindjet Manager (not an affiliate link!). When I put my speech in a visual context, I remember it better when I recite it later because in my mind, I go over the different parts of the map and check them off (or is that just some quirkiness about me?). Seriously, mind maps rock. The greatest reason is this: they add hierarchy to the thoughts and it helps your mind organize them better and remember them easier. Major thought #1 followed with sub-thought 1, then sub-sub-thoughts 1 through 3; then major thought #2, repeat the cycle. See below the sample one I created for you. (Click to expand image)
    Mind Manager
  8. Build Good Stuff into Your Speech: So how do you write the actual content? You can use a powerful combination of strong points, supporting material, proof and evidence if need be, personal experience, stories, quotes, social proof and humor (preferably, the self-deprecating kind!). When you vary up the content of the speech in this way, it actually makes it easier to memorize and remember. This is of course just the content that you build into the speech; that’s just half the story. The other half is in the effective delivery. Keep reading.
  9. Review Your Speech: By now you have your outline, which is all dressed up (see, I was going to put on clothes eventually!), with all the sections and details and ideally, a visual map. Now, you review it over and over and again and again. You read it to yourself, read it out loud, read the high level sections first to know the order then read the whole thing and make sure it flows and does not go dull or weak half way in the middle. If it does, re-write the weak section.
  10. Determine Your Delivery Style: Your style is unique to you and that is a major bonus you bring to the table as a speaker. Define your style both in terms of delivering the speech and in your use of visual aid and presentation slides. For instance, I chose to go without PowerPoint slides for Blogworld because I believe Power Point and all its logistics limit me as a speaker and take away from my full focus and attention on the audience. Your style may very well include slides or creative visual aid. Define your style and stay loyal to it. You want to leave a lasting impression on your audience with your style.
  11. Practice Your Speech: I would say to think of your speech in chunks at first. Maybe divide it into 3 or 4 main chunks. Practice each chunk separately. Feel confident about it. Time it and make sure that it fits within your speech requirements. Do this several times. Build confidence and practice over the course of at least 2 weeks to really gain mastery of your speech, especially if the speech is over 30 minutes long.
  12. Record Yourself on Audio and Listen: You may be self-conscious, or shy or have a grand excuse not to record your own voice. Too bad! I urge you to set those feelings aside, deal with them later, and just record yourself as you recite your speech on your favorite recorder and then listen to yourself. See what you like and what you do not like. Repeat until you feel good about the overall message
  13. Record Yourself on Video and Watch: When you are ready to record yourself on video, make sure to get dressed up, and pretend this is the event. In fact, create a mental stage, stick to the size of your stage and decide exactly where your imaginary audience is sitting. Then give the speech and watch yourself on video later. Make sure you like how you come across. Watch your gestures and your eye contact and your pacing. Exude confidence. Practice a lot.
  14. Memorize Your Opening and Ending: This may sound radical but it comes from years of Toastmasters training: Memorize your opening and your ending, if need be, word for word, pause for pause. When you captivate your audience with a great opening, you have their attention for a while. Furthermore, you have a chance to redeem yourself at the very end with a killer closing if you have stumbled or lost them along the way. And if you haven’t, you can still use a great closing. Everyone can. So just memorize these two puppies. No questions asked. You’ll thank me about this one someday!
  15. Give the Speech to Family or Friends: Preferably, I recommend giving the speech at a Toastmasters club if you belong to one and if the length is sufficient to meet with your club standards. If not, as a family member or a friend to sit through the whole speech and pretend that you are indeed at the event and they are indeed your audience. It does not matter how badly you mess up. It is show time and there is no restarting. Go through it and recover and push through. If you take your rehearsals as seriously as this, the speech will be fun when you are up on the stage.
  16. Prepare Your Slides or Speaker Notes: If you are preparing slides, I beg you to not go the corporate route and cram it with text or images. In fact, guess who killed Power Point for me? Yep! Corporate America again! Anyway just put 2 or maximum 3 thoughts on one slide. Remember your audience is not there to read but to listen. Since I am going without slides, I will have speaking notes with me. I don’t care for note cards so instead, I am using just standard printed paper with large font outlining the high level sections to cue me in as to what is next. Be sure to practice with the same notes and slides before the big day.
  17. Choose a Mantra: A mantra in yoga is a thought, a notion, a good phrase that you repeat over and over to yourself until you believe it. It is natural to be nervous before the speech but you need a grand reason to push through. What is your compelling reason to deliver a smashing speech? Repeat it to yourself. Maybe it is to show that you can do it or that your message can have a chance to be heart. Repeat the words over and over. Chase away those seeds of doubt and those drops of nervous sweat and worry. Fill your mind with positive thoughts and self-confidence. If you have practiced and prepared, you are ready.

So as I continue to decide how to decorate my new home office, I prepare for this greatest speech that I intend to give in New York next week. Perhaps, I will get to see you on May 26th, 11:30am Thursday but if not, send me your good vibes and energy. I know you’ll be there with me one way or another.

Well, I have a lot more tips but this post has gone on long enough. If you want more on speech writing and delivery, book me for a session. I’ll help you write your greatest speech yet. Because that’s exactly what I plan to deliver next week, my greatest speech yet!

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Gosh, I’m exhausted. Your turn now! I’d love to hear if you have given speeches in public before and what tips you can dispense on effective speech writing and delivery?

  • susan

    wow, you are amazing! wish i could be there to hear and see you. will be sending you all my thoughts of calm, peace, energy and support. thanks so much for this very useful education.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Susan, thank you thank you so much – I found out I can video the chat so it should be fun. I will feel your vibes at the talk, I am certain of it.

  • http://OurDevelopingMind.com Marco Lee

    I can attest that these are effective tips. :) I recently had a small lecture about dating. It was an out of the blue decision to give one, and because of that I don’t know what topics to talk to and I even am lazy to make one.

    I just did the course the night before the talk. Guess what? It went pretty well. I employed a technique much like your visual map. I also did outlines and stuff. I was even amazed on how fast and easy this can be.

    p.s. One thing that I have not practiced or prepared for was ending the speech. But I guess it was an okay type as to the whole lecture was great. :)

    More Power!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Marco, the more practice, the smoother the talk will go and I am paranoid in making it go really well so I have practiced a lot. I think I can probably pull together a casual conversational type talk but a motivational talk, I want to know my stories and my phrases and my quotes well. You know, it depends a lot on the topic, methinks. Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Solid ideas Farnoosh.I found that writing the speech out and going through a few dry runs, while recording it can do wonders for your delivery. I did many of the things you mentioned here in my very first speaking gig at Eye 4 Travel and people were shocked I had never spoken to a large audience before. I’m excited to share the stage with you at Blogworld so I can say “I knew here way back when ;)”

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Srini, you know it. I can’t wait to share the stage either and can’t wait to listen to your talk. We shall have a grand time. I’ll be snapping a few photos of you too (thank goodness you got a haircut ;))! We will do great and I watched that video you did at Eye 4 Travel. It was impressive. Blogworld will set a whole new record though. Watch out everyone! Surfer dude will rock the house!

  • http://www.yourextraordinaryfuture.com Sean Cox

    Thanks Farnoosh–great tips! After Ronald Reagan died, I heard a long interview with someone (can’t remember who!). Regardless of what one think of his politics, RR was a great speaker. The guy being interviewed (a politician) showed Reagan a draft of an upcoming speech, and asked for a critique. Reagan read it, and said it was ok, but suggested he put a little story “here and here”. He put the little stories/anecdotes in as Reagan suggested, and the speech was transformed into something really good, rather than just “ok”. Stories are so important!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Sean, Ronald Reagan was indeed a great speaker. Stories are the heart of a great speech, if they are relevant and delivered well and effectively. Thank you for sharing that story. I think he was a great president. He reduced the burden of taxes and did great things for America. Anyway, great pointers as a speaker too. Thanks again, Sean!

  • http://www.genawomack.com gena womack

    Hey Farnoosh, When I prepare for a speech I think of it in terms of my house and tag segments to my everyday routine upon entering my house. This way when I get lost or nervous I just have to remember where I am in my house and all works out fine. I thought I would take the time to share as it as been so helpful to me when public speaking.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Gena, darling, this must be your first time here – I am so happy to see you – so you go through and think of a section of your house as a part of your speech? I think I follow what you are describing. It might be too late for me to attribute that to my speech but very clever! :) Thanks and I didn’t realize you did much public speaking. Was this during your teaching job?

  • http://www.speechcontacts.blogspot.com/ Frances Evesham

    Thanks for such a useful post. I wish you all the best for your event – I won’t say luck, as with your preparation you won’t need it! I especially like your advice to video yourself – non verbal aspects will be just as important as the words you choose and I agree about Power Point- encourage your audience to watch you, not a list of words on a screen.
    Do you think about imagery, and making sure you use language that appeals to each of the 5 senses of your audience? That can help engagement.
    Thanks again, will be coming back for more.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Frances, thank you so much. I’ll take a bit of luck though ;)! It never hurts. The gestures and eye contact and postures and all the non-verbal cues are huge in how we connect and engage with our audience. So to answer your question, I use imagery in my stories, yes yes, and I appeal to the sense of listening (hear), feeling (touch), seeing (sight), and less so to smell and taste, but I might add a few now that you got me thinking. Fabulous tip. A million thanks and welcome to prolific living!

  • http://www.constantworkinprogress.com Veronika

    Best of luck Farnoosh, I’m sure you’re going to be awesome :) I’ve only ever done presentations at work and have no experience of public speaking on this scale so can’t share any tips, but I have a feeling that you won’t need any tips anyway, I think you’ve got this sussed out already :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Veronika, I know what you mean – the difference between presentations and speeches. Thank you so so much for all the kind words and good wishes. You are very sweet. I think you might enjoy public speaking outside the work scope. Maybe try it someday?

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  • http://www.alternaview.com Sibyl-alternaview

    Farnoosh: I so wish that I could be there to see your speech. I know it is going to be ABSOLUTELY amazing and people will learn and take away so much from it. These tips that you shared are so great and helpful. I love the idea of the mantra … that really can help you manage through any jitters. Thanks for the great suggestions. I can’t wait to hear your report on NY Blogworld and your experience :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dearest Sibyl, thank you for the encouraging words. Oh I do hope it goes as well as you say. I get one shot to get it right! Giving speeches is very stressful but it’s worth the exhilaration of the moment and the opportunity to share our message. My mantra is simple: “I can I can I can” and “go slow go slow go slow”…. I can’t wait to see you in LA, hopefully!

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  • http://www.shakeoffthegrind.com Joe Wilner


    Congrats on your speaking opportunity and wonderful suggestions here. From doing seminars I have learned that a major factor in an effective speech is connecting with people emotionally, and adapting the material and presentation to connect with as many different learning styles as possible. Long gone should be the days of lecturing by providing facts and information. People need to connect to the speaking and what they are saying on a deeper level. I love your suggestion of using mindmaps as well! These are such effective tools for organizing anything.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Joe, thank you SO much!! I love your suggestion – connecting with the audience emotionally. I should write a part 2 that is solely around *delivery* which I think is nearly everything. You are absolutely right! Thank you; I will take this great reminder with me to New York today! Very nice of you to stop by.

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  • http://diyblogger.net Dino Dogan

    This is very useful and extensive. I esp like No 15. You never know how audience will react until you’ve performed the piece in front of an audience. And preferably many times in front of many audiences.

    I know many toastmasters get into comedy so that they can practice their speech on more consistent and regular basis and perform in front of a varied audience.

    Good luck at the BW, knock em’ dead :-)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Dino, how nice to see a new face here. And believe me, that comment about audience reaction couldn’t be more true as I sit here, just barely 12 hours after giving my Blogworld talk in New York. The audience reaction – which I think was good because it seemed to be semi-stunned engaged look – was not what I had in mind and it kinda threw me off but of course I went along anyway and got great feedback post-speech. Toastmasters is great. And you are so very kind here. Thanks again!!

  • Andrew Walker

    Hi there. I got to say this is one of a great article you have here. Those tips were really helping me to become more effective in my writing technique and delivery. Thanks a lot!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Andrew, hi and welcome here. I couldn’t be happier to hear that these were useful to you and your writing. You are most welcome!

  • http://www.successfulblogging.com Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging

    Hi Farnoosh, very excited you got to speak and of course it went well. That’s phenomenal. I joined Toastmasters quite a few months ago and have been speaking here in Australia but I’d love to speak at BlogWorld one day and follow in your footsteps:) Well done sista, I’m sending you a big hug!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dearest Annabel,
      Fancy seeing you ere :)! How very nice of you to stop by. Thanks so much for your support. I had fun with the speech, despite a few logistical issues! I am very happy to hear you joined Toastmasters – a great organization all over the world – and I haven’t a doubt that you would be able to speak at Blogworld one day soon. Maybe the one in LA in November? Best of luck in all your endeavors and lovely to see you here, Annabel. Thank you for saying hi!

  • http://onmymind.areavoices.com Qin Tang

    Thanks for sharing your insights. The tips are really helpful. Injecting some personal stories and humor will really make a speech alive and interesting, and connects you to the audience.
    Also congrats for the opportunity to speak at the conference and for a job well done. I wish I could be there.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Qin, you are very welcome.
      Personal stories and humor go a very long way. Connecting to the audience is absolutely key, especially right off the bat. Thank you so much for all the good wishes. I really appreciate it.

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    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Jarvis, I am So happy to hear this – thanks for sharing and please feel free to come back in the future and to share your thoughts anytime. Very happy to have you here.

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  • Shikha Aukta

    Commendable wordings…. Really interesting and knowledgeable to read. I was not aware about many things, but will keep these things in mind. Thank you for making people aware about such an interesting topic.

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